Beware of Cocoa Bean Mulch in Your Garden

Potential Danger: Sweet-smelling but potentially harmful cocoa bean mulch.

Cocoa mulch, made of cocoa bean shells, is a by-product of chocolate production. It is commonly used in landscaping, but pet parents would do best to use an alternative mulch; if eaten in large quantities, cocoa mulch can be toxic to pets.
“Dogs are attracted to the fertilizer’s sweet smell,” says Dr. Steven Hansen, ASPCA Senior Vice President of Animal Health Services, “but like chocolate, cocoa bean mulch can be too much for our canine companions.”
The ASPCA notes that, “Ingestion of large amounts of cocoa bean mulch, which contains residual amounts of theobromine—a methylxanthine found in chocolate and known to be toxic to dogs—may cause a variety of clinical signs. These typically start with vomiting, diarrhea and elevated heart rate, and if large amounts are consumed, they may progress to hyperactivity, muscle tremors and possibly other more serious neurological signs.”
“We advise pet parents not to use cocoa mulch in areas where dogs can be exposed unobserved, particularly dogs who have indiscriminate eating habits,” says Dr. Hansen. Use instead a nontoxic alternative, such as shredded pine, cedar or hemlock bark.


There Are No No Deadly Coral Snakes in California

Do Not Mistake a California King Snake for a Coral Snake; 
Calif King Below:

Memorize this saying:

Red next to yellow kills a fellow. Red next to black is a friend to Jack”.

Common California Plant Can Kill Your Pets

Oleander Plants are drought tolerant, easy to grow, make excellent hedges and  wind barriers and many of us have them in our front and back yards but they are  dangerous for our pets. 

I remember when I was a kid a woman in Palm Springs murdered her husband by making him oleander tea! She is probably still in prison!

Thank you to the Petco web site for the following information.
Toxicity Rating: High. Ingestion of even small amounts can kill.

Dangerous Parts: The entire plant is toxic. Consuming leaves, fresh or dried, will poison most dogs.

Symptoms: Gastrointestinal irritation, cardiac abnormalities and death, which may be sudden.

Plant Description: Oleander grows as an indoor plant in the northern United States and as an outdoor shrub in California, Florida and other warm regions. The leaves are lance-shaped, thick and leathery, and grow opposite each other. Sometimes leaves may grow in whorls. The leaves are 8 to 10 inches long, although smaller specimens will have shorter leaves. Flowers are showy, approximately 1 to 3 inches in diameter, and grow in large clusters at the ends of the branches. They can be white or any shade of pink or red.

Signs: Oleander contains the toxins oleandrin and nerioside, which are very similar to the toxins in foxglove (digitalis). Oleander is not palatable, but may still be eaten by hungry dogs. Dried or wilted leaves may be slightly more palatable than fresh leaves, but the leaves are toxic when wilted or dried. In one report, approximately pound of leaves (about 30 or 40 leaves) delivered a lethal dose to an adult horse.
Clinical signs may develop rapidly, and the dog may be found dead with no prior warning. In other cases, depression coupled with gastrointestinal distress is evident: vomiting, diarrhea (which may be bloody), and abdominal pain. Irregularities in the heart rate and rhythm will occur: the heart may speed up or slow down and beat erratically. As the toxicosis progresses, the extremities may become cold, and the mucous membranes pale. Trembling and collapse can occur, followed by coma and death within a few hours.

First Aid: If dogs are observed eating oleander, contact a veterinarian immediately. The toxin acts quickly and is lethal in small amounts. Emergency measures may be used to empty the gastrointestinal tract of remaining plant matter, and medications may be administered to control the effects that the toxin has on the heart. Despite emergency care, the dog may still die, but the sooner treatment is begun, the better the chance for survival.

Prevention: Be able to identify oleander and exercise extreme caution when pets (and humans) are in the vicinity of these plants. Never place oleander where your dogs can have contact. Take extra care in cases where leaves can fall into a yard or a pen occupied by a bored or hungry dog. Animals and humans can also be hurt by oleander, even without touching the plant. Breathing the smoke or burning branches can cause poisoning, and merely smelling the flowers may be harmful.

Spring Time Toxins Newsletter

Tips from Pet Poison Helpline to Help Keep Your Pet Safe!

By Erica Cargill, CVT and Justine Lee, DVM, DACVECC

Spring is just around the corner! Plant bulbs are just as excited to break through the ground to add some color to our yards, as we are to see some greenery! That said, we need to be aware of the potential dangers spring plants can be to our pets. Here is a list of some of the most common spring plants and their toxicities… so you know how to pet-proof your garden and keep your pet safe!

Tulips and Hyacinth
Tulips contain allergenic lactones while hyacinths contain similar alkaloids. The toxic principle of these plants is very concentrated in the bulbs (versus the leaf or flower), so make sure your dog is not digging up the bulbs in the garden. When the plant parts or bulbs are chewed or ingested, it can result in tissue irritation to the mouth and esophagus. Typical signs include profuse drooling, vomiting, or even diarrhea, depending on the amount consumed. There is no specific antidote, but with supportive care from the veterinarian (including rinsing the mouth, anti-vomiting medication, and possibly subcutaneous fluids), animals do quite well. With large ingestions of the bulb, more severe symptoms such as an increase in heart rate and changes in respiration can be seen, and should be treated by a veterinarian. These more severe signs are seen in cattle or our overzealous, chowhound Labradors.

These flowers contain lycorine, an alkaloid with strong emetic properties (something that triggers vomiting). Ingestion of the bulb, plant or flower can cause severe vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and even possible cardiac arrhythmias or respiratory depression. Crystals are found in the outer layer of the bulbs, similar to hyacinths, which cause severe tissue irritation and secondary drooling. Daffodil ingestions can result in more severe symptoms so if an exposure is witnessed or symptoms are seen, we recommend seeking veterinary care for further supportive care.


There are dangerous and benign lilies out there, and it is important to know the difference. Peace, Peruvian, and Calla lilies contain oxalate crystals that cause minor signs, such as tissue irritation to the mouth, tongue, pharynx, and esophagus – these result in minor drooling. The more dangerous, potentially fatal lilies are true lilies, and these include Tiger, Day, Asiatic, Easter and Japanese Show lilies – all of which are highly toxic to cats! Even small ingestions (such as the pollen or 2-3 petals or leaves) can result in severe kidney failure. If your cat is seen consuming any part of a lily, bring your cat (and the plant) immediately to a veterinarian for medical care. The sooner you bring in your cat, the better and more effectively we can treat the poisoning. Decontamination (like inducing vomiting and giving binders like activated charcoal) are imperative in the early toxic stage, while aggressive intravenous fluid therapy, kidney function monitoring tests, and supportive care can greatly improve the prognosis.

There are two Crocus plants: one that blooms in the spring (Crocus species) and the other in the autumn (Colchicum autumnale). The spring plants are more common and are part of the Iridaceae family. These ingestions can cause general gastrointestinal upset including vomiting and diarrhea. These should not be | 3600 American Boulevard W., Suite 725 Bloomington, MN 55431 | @petpoisonhelp
mistaken for Autumn Crocus, part of the Liliaceae family, which contain colchicine. The Autumn Crocus, also known as Meadow Saffron, is highly toxic and can cause severe vomiting, gastrointestinal bleeding, liver and kidney damage, and respiratory failure. If you are not sure what plant it is, bring your pet to their veterinarian immediately for care. Signs may be seen immediately but can be delayed for days.

Lily of the Valley
The Convallaria majalis plant contains cardiac glycosides, which will cause symptoms similar to digitalis (foxglove) ingestion. These symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, a drop in heart rate, severe cardiac arrhythmias, and possibly seizures. Pets with any known exposure to this plant should be examined and evaluated by a veterinarian and treated symptomatically.

Rattlesnake Season Is Upon US!

Make Certain You and Your Dogs Are Prepared to Stay Safe

Two ways to protect your dogs: 

Rattlesnake Avoidance Training: 
This training teaches dogs to recognize and fear rattlesnakes. A good trainer will teach dogs to sense danger using olfactory (smell), auditory (sound of the rattle) and visually recognition a dangerous snake. Warning, a shock collar is typically used in this training method.Local schedule:
Rattlesnake Vaccine: 
Vaccinating your pet gives you more time to get them into a vet ER for treatment, additionally it can save you a money as the anti venom may not need to be administered.
*Always consult with your regular veterinarian before you vaccinate your pets.

Case of Mistaken Identity; 

Know the difference between a rattlesnake and gopher snake:

We need all snakes for vermin (rat, mole & gopher) control, many harmless gopher snakes are killed each year as people mistake them for rattlesnakes: 

1. Both rattlesnakes and gopher snakes shake their tails as a warning:
The gopher snake tail is silent.
The rattlers tails make a sound that you will never forget. Youtube video:

2. Coloring and patterns are very similar but the shape of the head is the true give away.
The gopher snakes head is shaped like a shoe box.
The rattlesnakes head is flat and triangular or diamond shaped.

See video below:

It's Skunk Season by Wildlife Emergency Services

Have you noticed the large number of skunks dead on roadways lately? Are you noticing the smell of skunk in your garden? Have you found signs of an animal digging in your yard, or trying to get under your home?

It's skunk mating season!

For those experiencing problems with skunks in or around the Bay Area, please call Humane Pest Control, WildCare Solutions, or A Wildlife Exclusion Service for help. 

Skunks are mostly nocturnal creatures, foraging a half a mile or so from their den site, except in breeding season, when males will travel far and wide in search of receptive females.

Skunks are classified as carnivores, but their diet is quite varied. Skunks eat insects, snails, assorted fruits and berries, nuts, even seeds. They also do humans a great service by predating on mice, rats, and gophers.

The earliest legislation to protect skunks in the United States passed in 1893. It was in response to appeals from hop growers in New York who recognized the benefits of wild skunks. A quote from the Farmer's Bulletin of 1914:

Skunks are among the most useful of the native mammals and are most efficient helps to the farmer and orchardist in their warfare against insect and rodent pests.

Once thought to be closely related to weasels and classified in the "weasel family", Mustelidae, skunks were reclassified in their own family, Mephitidae, in 1998.The definition of the word mephitis means noxious exhalation from the earth. The latin name for the striped skunk - the most common species, is Mephitis mephitis.

Striped skunks are slow movers and poor climbers, which can be real trouble for those living in an urban setting. We commonly get calls to help skunks that are entrapped in manmade structures, like catch basins.

A case in point, this week we had to come to the rescue of two skunks - probably a male and female, that had fallen down a storm drain and could not escape.

On scene, responders found two adult skunks, busily trying to dig out of a drain pipe.

The task was fairly simple - remove the grate and wait. One skunk came out quickly and waddled off nto the brushy hillside, but the other stayed huddled inside the pipe.

The team left the grate off overnight and replaced it the next day after the skunk had left. Check out the rescue video, below.

What is Bloat and Why Does it Kill Dogs So Quickly

Bloat in layman’s terms = the stomach has flipped:
Bloat in dogs is likely caused by a multitude of factors, but in all cases the immediate prerequisite is a dysfunction of the sphincter between the esophagus and stomach and an obstruction of outflow through the pylorus, or a clog.

Once you recognize the problem know that you have an urgent medical emergency and you do not have much time to get your pet to veterinary care, surgical intervention is the only solution.

Symptoms of Bloat 
In the early stages, a dog that is “bloating” will be uncomfortable and edgy for no apparent reason.  A dog might stand uncomfortably and seem to be in extreme discomfort for no apparent reason.

It will deteriorate rapidly. In no particular order, without treatment an affected dog will become increasingly restless, painful, weak and depressed. Its abdomen typically will become swollen, firm and excruciatingly painful. It may retch and try to vomit, but those attempts will be largely non-productive. Its breathing will become rapid, shallow and difficult. Its gums and other mucous membranes will become pale to blue, and it will salivate profusely. Its pulse will weaken while its heart rate races. Ultimately, without surgical intervention, the dog will collapse and die within a matter of a few hours. The most obvious physical signs of bloat are firm distension of the abdomen (a very hard, swollen belly, tight like a drum), together with obvious abdominal discomfort. Non-productive retching and attempts to vomit are also common. Key clinical signs may include:
Firm, distended abdomen
Non-productive attempts to vomit
Abdominal pain (looking at the belly, biting at it, whimpering, etc)
Lack of appetite
Rapid shallow breathing (tachypnea); difficulty breathing (dyspnea)
Profuse salivation (“frothing at the mouth”; normally indicates severe pain)
Pale mucous membranes (gums, others)
Weak pulse
Rapid heart rate (tachycardia)
Cardiac arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms)
What Causes Bloat & What You Can Do To Avoid It
Some of the more widely acknowledged factors for developing bloat include increased age, breed, having a deep and narrow chest, stress, eating foods such as kibble that expand in the stomach, overfeeding, too much water consumption in a small period of time; gulping air with water intake before or after exercise.  Dogs with inflammatory bowel disease may be at an increased risk for bloat.

Breed susceptibility
Even medium size dogs get bloat but as a general rule, bloat is of greatest risk to deep-chested dogs. The five breeds at greatest risk are Great Danes, Weimaraners, St. Bernards, Gordon Setters, and Irish Setters. In fact, the lifetime risk for a Great Dane to develop bloat has been estimated to be close to 37 percent. Standard Poodles are also at risk for this health problem, as are Irish Wolfhound, Doberman Pinschers, Rottweilers, German shorthaired pointer, German Shepherd Dogs and Rhodesian Ridgebacks. Basset Hounds have the greatest risk for dogs less than 23 kg/50 lbs.

There is a fairly new preventative surgery and the cost is around $750 to $1000. Some breed specific rescue organizations will not allow adoption until this surgery has been performed.

Wiki Information

Rat Poison is Deadly to Pets

Signs Your Pet May Have Ingested Rat Poison

If your dog has eaten rodent bait or eaten a rat that may have been baited you need to have a veterinarian administer the antidote ASAP.  
  • Remember that it can take days or weeks before symptoms show up in your pet.
  • Sometimes but not always you will see bright green feces
  • Coughing or belching
  • Bleeding from gums, nose, rectum or blood in urine.
  • Lethargy, fatigue, weakness
  • Pale gums, no color.
  • Drinking an unusual amount of water
  • Drooling, slobbering
  • Dog feels cold, may have the shivers
  • Muscle tremors, uncontrollable gait

It is important for human health that we keep vermin out of our homes and garages but we are accidentally killing our pets, our neighbor’s pets and wildlife by using poisoned bait.

Even if you feel you have put bait in a safe spot where your pets have no access you need to consider that rats and mice in wanting to take their loot back to their nests, often move the bait. Additionally if you dog or cat eats a rat that has ingested poison it then becomes a secondary poisoning and just as serious. Secondary poisoning is also responsible for the deaths of many hawks, owls and other birds of prey.

Ever wonder how professional pest control bait boxes work: The poison bait has a groove drilled thru the center for the purpose of dropping them onto spools inside the box, its a good plan except that rats often pull large chunks of poison off the spools. If they get waylaid along the route to their nests and drop the bait, your dog or cat can find the poison.

The LA Zoo had professional pest control bait boxes installed as they felt this would be safest way to control rodent populations in the park. An Orangutan noticed a rat run thru its cage, it just left a bait box outside the ape cage and was carrying a large chunk of poison. The orangutan caught the rat, killed it and ate the poison.

My own experience was that I was walking my dog and noticed she had picked up something from the ground that was blue/green and looked like detergent. I pulled it from her mouth and could see the spool groove down the center; it was half of an entire chunk of bait.  I noticed a black bait box in my neighbors yard about twenty feet away.

It is my opinion that snaps traps (placed out of reach of kids & pets) are the safest and most humane ways to kill rodents.